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Sales Solutions
What is a (Truly) Qualified Prospect?

vol 1, issue #2
July 15, 2003

A critical part of the sales process is Qualifying. Why? Because if we fail to fully and completely qualify a prospect up front, we run the risk of investing a lot of our limited and valuable time in a deal that has no chance of closing. Meanwhile, other, more promising (read:better-qualified) prospects go unattended - and to the competition. How can we increase our odds that the time we invest with a particular prospect is well spent; that is, has a high likelihood of closing? How can we make sure we invest time with the right prospects - the ones who can and want to buy - and not the tire-kickers, ear-benders, and time-wasters who pretend to be real prospects when, in reality, they are not?

We ask questions.

Not just any questions - but simple, direct questions that cut to the chase - that ferret out those prospects who can't or won't buy our product or service, from those who really need or want - who are hungry for - a solution such as ours. Questions that are powerful and incisive, that uncover desires, needs, fears, concerns, and - most importantly - motivations.

Let's start with the conditions that need to exist for a prospect to be minimally-qualified. There are four:

  • There has to be an interest in the type of product or service you offer
  • There has to exist (a) some acute need the prospect has or some goal he wants to achieve that (b) your product or service can solve or help him achieve
  • The prospect must want to fill this need or want now (i.e in what you consider to be a reasonable time frame)
  • The prospect must have the money and be willing to spend it

Think about this. Can you remove any one of these conditions and expect to close the sale. Go ahead and try. You can't!

But wait! Do we want prospects who are just minimally-qualified? No! We want super-qualified prospects! Not just prospects who say they need or want what you have, but prospects who have real reasons for needing or wanting it. Determining if a prospect is super-well-qualified requires higher-level questioning skills - the kind they don't teach you in Sales 101. Example of these questions include:

  • What has been going on, what is going on, and what's changed at their company that they're willing to invest their valuable time evaluating our solution?

  • What's wrong with their present situation? What specifically are they looking for? Why? And why now?

  • What do they think the solution is, and what have they done so far to address it?

Action item:

Take a deal you're presently working on - or, better yet, a deal you recently lost, either to a competitor or to no-decision. A deal you were working on for a long time. For a lost deal, examine (as you always should when you lose a deal) why you didn't win (for an ongoing deal, go back and review what questions you should have asked but haven't yet). What questions could you have asked/could you ask up-front that would have helped/would help you determine (a) whether this was/is a real prospect, (b) whether your product or solution was/is qualified to address their need (qualification goes both ways - review question 2b above), or (c) whether there were/are other conditions in place (prospect bias towards a competitor, for example) that in retrospect indicated/indicate that you never really had/don't have much of a chance to win.

If you're evaluating a lost deal, learn from the experience, and apply these concepts to current and future deals. If you're evaluating a current deal, you still have time to super-qualify that prospect. Pick up that phone right now and ask those questions! You can couch it in such a way that it's beneficial for your prospect to answer them, so you don't come across as self-serving (Your reason for calling is you were thinking about his issues and you "just want to make sure I'm serving you as best I can...")

Good Selling!

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